Bike it: Trails near Philadelphia worth exploring - Philadelphia Inquirer


You can’t go to the gym, or to the movies, or bowling. Not yet. That’s expected to change by July 3. But bike trails? They’ve been open and are perfect for the pandemic, whether you want to de-stress, work out, keep your kids occupied, or just get out of the house.

The Greater Philadelphia region is home to hundreds of miles of trails. Some greet you with riverside views. Others are scattered with historic attractions. Cruise through any of them, and you’ll find ample sunshine, fresh air, and picnic stop-offs to enjoy.

We’ve rounded up a few options to check out, both within city limits and beyond. For more places to explore, visit The Circuit Trails (circuittrails.org), a network of trails that stretches through Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties and southwest New Jersey.

For a classic Philly Ride:

Schuylkill River Trail and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive LoopLength: About 8 miles

Location: Starts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.) and follows the Schuylkill to the Falls Bridge in East Falls; after crossing over the bridge to the opposite side of the river, you’ll bike back toward the city on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive until you return to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Best for: All bikes

Terrain: Flat, asphalt

Kid-friendly: Yes

A popular spot for cyclists and runners, this urban trail takes you along the Schuylkill, with waterfront views throughout the entire ride. The trail is flat, and takes about an hour for the average cyclist. The first half runs along Kelly Drive, so expect cars whizzing by on your right. The second half follows Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, which is currently closed to traffic to make social distancing easier. Hop off the trail and cruise directly on the road. Afterward, there are plenty of grassy picnic spots behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where you’ll start and finish your ride.

For nature without leaving the city:

Wissahickon Valley Park Trail / Forbidden Drive

Length: About 5.5 miles

Location: From Lincoln Drive and Forbidden Drive to Germantown Pike and Rodgers Drive

Best for: Hybrids and mountain bikes, but doable on a road bike, especially those with thicker tires

Terrain: Flat, with optional hillier offshoots for mountain bikers; asphalt, dirt, and gravel

Kid-friendly: Yes

A wooded refuge just miles from the city’s center, this flat and wide, mostly gravel trail winds you along Wissahickon Creek. While you might see the occasional horseback rider, you won’t see any cars beyond the parking lots. There are plenty of offshoots into the woods, too, if you wish to steer off the main path and climb steeper and rockier terrain.

For a long ride departing from the city:

Schuylkill River Trail to Valley Forge

Length: About 24 miles, one-way Location: From the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Valley Forge National Historical Park, 1400 North Outer Line Dr., King of Prussia

Best for: All bikes

Terrain: Flat, mostly asphalt with a small stretch of gravel and wooded boardwalk area near Manayunk

Kid-friendly: No; small stretch of road riding required

This route clocks in at just under 50 miles round-trip, and takes about four to five hours, depending on your pace. You’ll start at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Instead of turning at Falls Bridge as you would for the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Loop (see above), continue straight for a half-mile until you hit Ridge Avenue. At this point, you’ll take a left on the road for a short stretch, following Ridge Avenue until it connects to Main Street. Ride Main Street through Manayunk for about a half-mile to Lock Street, at which point you can pick back up on the Schuylkill River Trail, and cruise the final 18 miles to Valley Forge on a peaceful, tree-lined path.

For an even longer ride:

Delaware Canal Towpath

Length: 58.89 miles

Location: South Delaware Drive/SR 611 in Easton to Jefferson Ave. in Bristol

Best for: Hybrids and mountain bikes, or road bikes with thicker tires

Terrain: Flat, crushed stone trail

Kid-friendly: Yes; trail is intersected by roadways in several locations

Part of the 165-mile long D&L Trail, the Delaware Canal Towpath stretches from Easton to Bristol, offering a ride full of nature, history, and towns to explore. Back in the mid-1800s, the main canal was used to transport coal to industrial cities in north Jersey and New York City. As you follow the canal, you’ll take in views of the Delaware River, along with those of 19th-century mills, lockkeeper houses, and stone-arched culverts. The trail winds through several quaint towns, too, including New Hope and Lambertville. If you aren’t up for an all-day adventure, check out one of the shorter loops stemming from the trail, found here.

For rolling hills and history:

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Length: 18.2 miles of trails

Location: 1400 N. Outer Line Dr., King of Prussia

Best for: All bikes

Terrain: Flat and hillier options, about half of the trails are paved

Kid-friendly: Yes

Valley Forge was the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army. Across its 3,500 acres of rolling hills, you’ll find more than 18 miles of authorized biking trails and numerous Revolutionary War monuments to check out. Multiple trails wind throughout the park; a map can be found here. On the south side, a paved, 5-mile loop (the Joseph Plumb Martin loop) connects many of the park’s historic and interpretive sites. On the north side, 2 miles of the paved Schuylkill River Trail run through the park. There are about 12 miles of flat, unpaved trails to explore, too.

For birds and nature:

The Pennypack Trail

Length: 9.5 miles

Location: Multiple access points, including 800 Welsh Rd., 1750 Byberry Rd., and through Rockledge Park at Robbins & Rockledge Avenues

Best for: Hybrids and mountain bikes

Terrain: Short hills interspersed with flat stretches, pavement and crushed gravel

Kid-friendly: Yes, but trail is intersected by a train crossing and roadways in several locations, and includes hills

Built on the former Fox Chase-Newtown SEPTA rail line, this gravel trail takes you through Pennypack Creek valley, where meadows, trees, and wildlife abound. You’ll cross a 165-foot-steel bridge, where you can peer over a small stream valley from 35 feet above. And bring a pair of binoculars for when you reach Bethayres Swamp, a designated Audubon IBA (important bird area).

For mountain biking:

Blue Marsh Lake

Length: 36 miles of trails

Location: 1268 Palisades Dr., Leesport, Pa.

Best for: Mountain bikes

Terrain: Includes gravel roads, partially paved roads, grassy fields, hills and flat stretches

Kid-friendly: Best for older kids experienced with mountain biking and climbing hills

This Berks County lake is surrounded by 6,200 acres of land, featuring more than 35 miles of trails to explore. The main trail is about 30 miles, and winds along the lake, hugging the shore at times and turning into the woods at others. It offers a mix of terrain, from hills to muddy sections to open fields, and is considered best for intermediate mountain bikers.

For biking and camping in South Jersey :

Belleplain State Forest

Length: 50 miles of trails

Location: 1 Henkinsifkin Rd., Woodbine, N.J.

Best for: Mountain bikes

Terrain: Diverse, mostly flat terrain, with both single tracks and wider stretches

Kid-friendly: Yes; some trails better for older kids

Book a campsite, and load up your mountain bikes for a little getaway at this state forest, just a 20-minute drive from the Jersey Shore. Surrounding trails include plenty of mixed terrain, including flat loops, single tracks, and technical spots with roots.

Click here to see the list of trails.

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